The prime minister of United Kingdom, Theresa May, is currently visiting India to discuss post-Brexit deals, offering preferential visas and immigration opportunities to the super-rich business executives in exchange for investment.
While Indian officials seem to have associated many expectations with May’s trip — like a relaxation of restrictions on post-study work visas for Indian students, for instance — one politician is demanding something entirely different: an apology.
Senior member of Indian parliament, Shashi Tharoor, said Prime Minister May should “bend her knees and beg forgiveness” for the “sins” committed by the British empire during 90 years of colonial rule — particularly the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where British soldiers killed of hundreds of nonviolent protesters in 1919.
“Either a royal apology or a prime ministerial apology would satisfy all of us. It would cleanse any lingering concerns about the non-expiated guilt for these atrocities,” said Tharoor. “When a British prime minister is traveling to India seeking investment from here, we’re seeing the tables being turned.”
He also criticized former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s “mealy-mouthed” apology in 2013, where he refused to apologize for the killings that happened “a good 40 years before [he] was even born.” Instead, Cameron vowed to “never forget the deeply shameful” event.
The non-apology was widely criticized at the time.
“It is in a sense an entire society apologizing to an entire people. You cannot quantify the wrongs done,” Tharoor told PTI news agency. “What is far more important than financial reparation would be an apology. People who are not responsible today for the wrongs done by their forebears in the past era should apologize nonetheless to people who are not the ones to whom wrong was done.”
He also highlighted German democrat leader Willy Brandt and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who apologized for the atrocities committed by their predecessors.
“These two apologies offer a model for the British prime minister on the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre to come to that site, bend her knees and beg forgiveness for all the sins committed in the past,” Tharoor continued. “That I think will wash away in many ways the sense that there are wrongs that have not been acknowledged. David Cameron’s rather mealy-mouthed description of the massacre in 2013 as a 'deeply shameful event' does not, in my view, constitute an apology.”
This is not the first time the MP has made such demands.
Last year, during a speech at Oxford Union, Tharoor called on the U.K. to pay symbolic reparations to India, along with other former colonies, for decades of imperial rule.
Tharoor, currently an MP for the opposition Congress party, was India’s candidate for U.N. secretary-general in 2006. He finished second to current secretary, Ban Ki-moon.